On February 4, 2014, at the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky, Bill Nye (Science educator & host for television series, Bill Nye the Science guy) and Ken Ham(founder of the Young Earth Creationist [YEC] ministry, Answers in Genesis [AiG]) engaged in a public debate. Nye accepted Ham’s invitation for a debate on the topic “Is Creation A Viable Model of Origins?” Prior to the debate, the Big Think featured Bill Nye on a YouTube post dubbed “Creationism is Not Appropriate for Children.” The video gained a lot of attention with time and had over 4 million views. Ken Ham on the other side had the assertion that the Creation Museum carried information to prove that humans and dinosaurs in a point in time co-existed, and that God created the earth 6000 years ago. Ham’s assertion had a negative correlation with that of mainstream science which carried the view that the universe was approximately 4.5 billion years old. In an attempt to explain how extraordinary the claim of creationism was, Bill resorted to relating his arguments to the unreasonability he perceived from the story of the worldwide flood stated in the book of Genesis. Below are excerpts from the debate debunking the idea of a worldwide flood:
Now Mr. Ham and his followers have this remarkable view of a worldwide flood, that somehow influenced everything we observe in nature. A 500 foot wooden boat, eight zookeepers for 14,000 individual animals, every land plant in the world underwater for a year? I ask us all, “is that really reasonable?” You hear a lot about the Grand Canyon, I imagine, which is a remarkable place, and it has fossils, and the fossils in the Grand Canyon are found in layers. There is not a single place in the Grand Canyon where the fossils of one type of animal cross over into the fossils of another. In other words, when there’s a big flood on the Earth, you would expect drowning animals to swim up to a higher level. Not any one of them did, not a single one. If you could find evidence of that my friends, you could change the world.
We are here in Kentucky on layer upon layer of limestone. I stopped at the side of the road today and just picked up a piece of limestone that has a fossil, right there. Now in these many, many layers, in this the vicinity of Kentucky, there are coral animals. Fossils, zoris antelli. When you look at it closely, you can see that they lived their entire lives here? They live typically 20 years, sometimes more than that if the water conditions are correct, and so we’re standing on millions of layers of ancient life. How could those animals have lived their entire lives and formed these layers in just 4000 years? There isn’t enough time since Mr. Ham’s flood for this limestone that we are standing on to have come into existence.
My scientific colleagues go to places like Greenland, the Arctic, they go to Antarctica and they drill into the ice with hollow drill bits; it’s not that extraordinary, and many have probably done it yourselves, like with hole saws to put locks in doors, for example. And we pull out long cylinders of ice, long ice rods. And these are made of snow and ice. It’s called snow ice. Snow ice forms over the winter, and snow flakes fall, and are crushed down by subsequent layers. They’re crushed together, and are entrapping little bubbles. The bubbles must needs be from ancient atmospheres; there’s nobody running around with a hypodermic needle squirting ancient atmosphere into the bubbles. And we find certain of the cylinders to have 680,000 layers. 680,000 snow winter/summer cycles. How could it be that just 4000 years ago, all of this ice formed? We can just run some numbers. Let’s see we have 680,000 layers of snow ice, and 4000 years since the great flood, that means we need 170 winter/summer cycles every year. For the last 4000 years. Wouldn’t someone have noticed that? Wouldn’t someone have notice there’s been winter/summer, winter/summer for 170 times in one year?
If we go to California, we find the enormous stands of Bristlecone pines. Some of them are over 6000 years old. 6800 years old. There is a famous tree in Sweden, it’s 9,550 years old. How could these trees be there if there was an enormous flood just 4000 years ago? You can try this yourself, everybody. I don’t mean to be mean to trees, but get a sapling and put it under water for a year. It will not survive. Nor will it’s seeds. It just won’t make it. So how could these trees be that old if the Earth is only 4000 years old?
Now when we go to the Grand Canyon, which is an astonishing place, I recommend to everybody in the world to someday visit the Grand Canyon. You find layer upon layer of ancient rocks. And if there was this enormous flood, that you speak of, wouldn’t there have been churning, bubbling and roiling. How would these things have settled out? Your claim that they settle out in an extraordinary short amount of time is for me not satisfactory. You can look at these rocks, and you can look at rocks that are younger, and you can look at seashores where there is sand, which is what geologists on the outside do: study the rate at which soil is deposited at the ends of rivers and deltas, and we can see that it takes a long, long time for the sediments to turn to stone. Also, you can see in this picture, that one type of sediment has intruded on another type. Now if that was uniform, wouldn’t we expect it to all be even without intrusion.
Furthermore, we can find places in the Grand Canyon where you can see an ancient riverbed on that side going to an ancient riverbed on that side, and the Colorado river has cut through it. And by the way, if this great flood drained through the Grand Canyon, wouldn’t there have been a Grand Canyon on every continent? How could we not have Grand Canyons everywhere, If this water drained away in this extraordinarily short amount of time, 4000 years? When you look at the layers carefully, you find these beautiful fossils. When I say beautiful, I am inspired by them, they are remarkable, because we are looking at the past. You find down low what you might consider as rudimentary sea animals. Up above, you’ll find the famous trilobites; above that you might find some clams or oysters, and above that you’ll find some mammals. You never, ever find a higher animal mixed in with the lower one. You never find a lower one trying to swim its way to a higher one. If it all happened in such an extraordinarily short amount of time, If this water drained away just like that, wouldn’t we expect to see some turbulence? And by the way, anyone here, really, if you can find one example of that anywhere in the world, the scientists of the world challenge you, would embrace you, you’d be a hero. You would change the world. If you could find one example of that anywhere. People have looked and looked and have not found a single one.
Now, one of the extraordinary claims associated with Mr. Ham’s worldview, is that this giant boat, a very large wooden ship went aground safely on a mountain in what we now call the Middle East. And so places like Australia, are populated, then by animals whose ancestors somehow managed to get from the Middle East all the way to Australia, in the last 4000 years. That to me is an extraordinary claim. We would expect then, somewhere between the Middle East and Australia, we would expect to find evidence of kangaroos. We would expect to find some fossils, some bones; sometime during the last 4000 years, somebody would’ve been hopping along there and died along the way, and we would find them. And furthermore, there is a claim that there was a land bridge that allowed these animals to get from Asia all the way to the continent of Australia, and that land bridge has since disappeared in the last 4000 years. No navigator, no diver, no U.S. Navy submarine, no one’s ever detected any evidence of this let alone any fossils of kangaroos. So your expectation is not met. It doesn’t seem to hold up.
So let’s see, if there were 4000 years since Ken Ham’s flood, and let’s say, as he said many times, there are 7000 “kinds” of animals. Today, the very, very lowest estimate is that there are about 8.7 million species. But a much more reasonable estimate is 50 million. Or even 100 million, if you include viruses and bacteria and all the beetles that must be extant in the tropical rain forest, that we haven’t yet found; so we will take a number that we think is pretty reasonable, 16 million species today.
OK, If these came from 7000 kinds, let’s say this is subtracted from 16 million, that’s 15,993,000. In 4000 years we have 365 and a quarter days per year, we would expect to find 11 new species every day. So you go out to your yard, you wouldn’t just find a new bird, you’d find a different kind of bird. A whole new species of bird. Every day, a new species of fish, a new species of organism you can’t see, I mean this would be enormous news. The last 4000 years people would’ve seen these changes among us, so the Cincinnati Inquirer, I imagine, would carry a column right next to the weather report, showing new species and would list these 11 every day. But we see no evidence of that; there is no evidence of these species; there just simply isn’t enough time.
Another remarkable thing, that I would like everybody to consider, inherent in this worldview is that somehow Noah and his family were able to build a wooden ship that would house 14,000 individuals. 7000 kinds, and there’s a boy and a girl for each one of those. So there were about 14,008 people, and these people were unskilled; as far as everybody knows they had never built a wooden ship before. Furthermore, they had to get all these animals on there and had to feed them; and I understand that Ken Ham has some explanations for that, which I frankly find extraordinary, but this is the premise of the day.
And we can then run a test. Scientific tests. People in the early 1900s built an extraordinarily large wooden ship, the Wyoming. It was a six-masted schooner, the largest one ever built, and it had a motor on it, for winching and cables and stuff. But this boat had a great difficulty. It was not | as big as the Titanic, but it was a very long ship. It would twist in the sea. It would twist this way [acting out the first torsional mode], this way [first vertical bending mode], and this way [first horizontal bending mode]. With all that twisting, it leaked, and it leaked like crazy. The crew could not keep the ship dry. And indeed, it eventually foundered and sank , and the loss of all 14 hands. So there were 14 crewmen aboard a ship built by very skilled shipwrights in New England. These guys were the best in the world at wooden shipbuilding, and they could not build a boat as big as the Ark is claimed to be to have been. Is that reasonable? Is that possible? That the best shipbuilders in the world could not do what eight unskilled people, men and their wives, were able to do?
If you visit the national zoo , in Washington DC, it’s 163 acres, and they have 400 species; by the way, this picture that you are seeing was taken by spacecraft in space, orbiting the earth. If you told my grandfather, let alone my father that we had that capability, they would’ve been amazed. That capability comes from a fundamental understanding of gravity, material science, and of physics, and life science where you go looking. This place as often in any zoo, is often criticized for how it treats its animals. That’s 400 species on 163 acres–is it reasonable that Noah and his colleagues , his family, were able to maintain 14,000 animals and themselves and feed them aboard a ship that was bigger than anyone has ever been able to build?
Your assertion that all the animals were vegetarians before they got on the Ark, that’s really remarkable. I have not spent a lot of time with lions, but I can tell they have teeth that really aren’t set up for broccoli. That these animals were vegetarians until the Flood, is something that I would ask you to provide a little more proof for. I give you the lions’ teeth, you give me verses as translated in the English over 30 centuries, so that’s not enough evidence for me. If you’ve ever played telephone–I did, I remember very well in kindergarten where you have a secret, and you whisper it to the next person, to the next person, to the next person, things often go wrong. So it’s very reasonable to me that instead of lions being vegetarians on the Ark, lions are lions, and the information that you use to create your world view is not consistent with what I, as a reasonable man, would expect.
Mr. Ham’s point of view, that the Bible as translated into American English, serves as a science text, and that he and his followers will interpret that for you, I want you to consider what that means. It means that Mr. Ham’s word, or his interpretation of these other words is somehow to be more respected than what you can observe in nature, what you can find literally in your backyard in Kentucky. It is a troubling and unsettling point of view, and it is one I would very much like you to address when you come back.
And then as far as Noah being an extraordinary shipwright, I’m very skeptical. The shipwrights my ancestors in my family in New England, they spent their whole life learning to make ships. I mean it’s very reasonable perhaps to you that Noah had superpowers and was able to build this extraordinary craft with seven family members, but to me it’s just not reasonable.
Achaab Daniel Abalansa
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